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  #46   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 08-18-2005, 09:40 AM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

Quote:
Originally Posted by phrontist
An unfair competition is no competition at all. The organization is larger than Dean, and if it is to survive, it must, like all organizations, change.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken
FIRST has grown from an initial 32 teams to over a thousand, has thrived for over a decade, and you are telling us the person who founded this program, and put his life-force behind it for all these years got it wrong?

Seriously?
No, I do not believe I ever said that his origional goal was wrong, and if that was the message sent, it certainly wasn't intended. What I do believe, however, is that I disagree with certain elements of the implementation of his "change the culture" master plan. These issues are fairly minor. None the less, I think people should arrive at their own conclusions, instead of following the messiah in denim unquestioningly. Don't get me wrong, I think he's brilliant, but no one is right all the time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken
If FIRST was primarilly a robot building contest, then the major funding for it would evaporate overnight. Turn FIRST into battlebots, where winning is the thing, then what is the point?
I'm sorry, but yes, FIRST is a robot building contest. My team is sponsored by people who want to give young people interested in engineering a chance to do some actual engineering while still in highschool. Furthermore, we try to get other students who would not otherwise be interested involved.
[/quote]

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken
I could not possibly care less which high school or which company can build the best robot in the US, or in the world. I do care about my profession: engineering. I do want to see more students take up the challenge of completing an engineering degree and helping to do what the rest of my profession does: making peoples lives better.

If a team has to win to be successful, then at the end of each year you will have 3 successful teams and 997 losers.
No, my team does not have to win to be successful. We do, however, need to compete, and do so with integrity, which for me at least means attemting to build student designs.

Competition serves an important purpose, it serves to focus our efforts.
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Unread 08-18-2005, 09:56 AM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

"FIRST will start to discourage many teams from participating when they realize that the robot they spent six weeks on has no chance of success at the competition" ~Ryan F

As much as I hate to full out disagree with you and say you're wrong, you are. My kids came to competition this year with a robot that was... um, not the most competitive at the competition. The first practice match, the entire gripper fell apart. Luckily for us, a team with more engineers and resources was able to help us out and provide us with a well designed and very functional replacement. Did this discourage my kids? Well of course they wished they could be the best, who doesn't? I mean, in any given competition, there is a best, and everyone in the given lower ranks, wants to be that best team. Here's a hint, just because you don't win doesn't mean it's not still fun.

As to the topic of balance which has been thoroughly discussed, I'm going to go devil's advocate on this one. Guess what? All of these teams that say they're 100% student built, designed etc, are not. Who do you think designed everything in the kit of parts? I can pretty much guarantee you it wasn't a high school student. So yes, you have had engineer help. Really, it's not so bad, I promise.

Why would you do it without adult technical mentors? (and btw, in this post, college kids will count as adults, even though some people say that there is still a need for real adults) Well, possibly because you have none available. I know that we looked endlessly for anyone to help mentor our team. We had 1 engineering major in our mentor team last year. The rest just knew from being on their high school teams. I understand that it's not ideal, but sometimes you just can't get adult technical mentors. We've been trying to get into GM (the closest place that would have them) for almost a year now. I'm still waiting to get ahold of anyone inside of the Lansing plant.

Why would you do it? To make things happen with what you have. Sometimes it's just not available. I've had a few people tell me that since I didn't have them that I shouldn't have started a team. I think my kids still had a great time, and want to come back again next year, so I don't see the problem. The kids learned. The mentors learned. Yes, we weren't as good as the best teams, there are only so many "best team" spots available.

Overall point to those that don't want to read the rest of this post's babble: Whether or not your team has the technical mentors, as long as your kids are still inspired by the adult technical mentors of other teams, and get the picture that we're trying to portray in this program, the best that you can to is the best you can do. Do it, and be proud of your results
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  #48   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 08-18-2005, 10:17 AM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryan F.
I realize there are no absolutes here, but what I have seen has appalled me. I've witnessed an engineer on a team with an obviously professionally designed robot yelling at one of his pit crew about how he was “stupid" for the way he was trying to fix something, then push him out of the way and do it himself. Witnessing things like this make me VERY thankful I am on a team with high student involvement.

Here’s the big problem. How are high schoolers supposed to compete against professionally designed and built robots? This is where the true conflict is. The teams who believe that FIRST is better when the students actually build and manage the robot get destroyed in competition. FIRST is not supposed to be a professional engineering competition. FIRST is meant to Inspire the STUDENTS. The more we allow for these professionally designed and built robots to dominate the FIRST competitions, the more it encourages student run teams to start letting the engineers design and build the robots. FIRST will start to discourage many teams from participating when they realize that the robot they spent six weeks on has no chance of success at the competition.
I don't doubt that you saw a mentor do something stupid. Surely, that was unfortuneate. For every example of a poor mentoring moment, I can think of 10 positive mentoring moments. No mentor is perfect. Don't make this one bad example outweigh the hundreds of great relationships that FIRST engineers have with students.

I definitely don't agree with your logic. In FIRST, high schoolers are supposed to partner up with professionals (engineers, skilled tradesmen, business leaders, etc.) and compete against other teams. This program is more about that partnership, and less about students being educated. This is not a science fair.

You say "FIRST is meant to Inspire the STUDENTS." You are right. However, you seem to be missing the point that these professionals are doing much inspiring. It is a two way street, in my opinion. If this was just a student robot building contest, the level of inspiration we see would not be present. Seriously... we would have no swerve drives, no shift on the fly gearboxes, no object-oriented autonomous programming, no WFA winners, no IRI, no Battlecry, no WRRF. We would not be playing in the Georgia Dome, there would be no students getting Segway riding lessons at FIRST competitions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by phrontist
One of the more uncomfortable, and seemingly inevitable moments of explaining first to an outsider is the inevitable prompt, "Are all these robots student built?", to which I haven't found a good response. The honest answer would be no, but how do you justify the program in light of that?
Here is a good response: "Heck no!... these are NOT all student-built! That is not what this program is about. FIRST is about a partnership between students, engineers, teachers, and their communities. This partnership is what makes FIRST special. The fact that these professional engineers, college students and skilled tradesmen are working side by side with the students define what the 'Inspiration' is in FIRST. This is not a VICA tournament or a Science Fair. It is special. This is what is changing the educational culture in our community."

Quote:
Originally Posted by phrontist
In FIRST, entirely Engineer built robots are an abomination. There is significant reason to be proud of the degree to which your robot is student designed (built is less important, I find, because real engineers may never pick up a spanner).
You are right that there is a significant reason to be proud of a student designed robot. It is great to see this. If students can design a robot, then this program is working. HOWEVER, to say that an engineer-built (and/or designed) robot is an abomination is insulting, short-sighted, and wrong, in my opinion. Students can still be inspired to SEE how something is designed and built. There have been Chairman's Award teams who have had engineers do much of the design and build of the robot. This is not a bad thing. The team celebrated their engineers, and their level of student inspiration. Your statement insults these teams.

As long as I am still involved in FIRST, I will fight to keep it to be a partnership between students and adults, working side by side to build these robots.

Andy B.

Last edited by Andy Baker : 08-18-2005 at 11:05 AM.
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Unread 08-18-2005, 10:20 AM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

Beth, I agree with your post

the question of this thread is more geared towards asking why some student run teams actually shun professional help

if you try to get engineers on your team, but you cant find one, thats one thing

but there are teams out there that have the attitude "we dont need (or want) any engineers, we can do this all by ourselves"

Last edited by KenWittlief : 08-18-2005 at 10:23 AM.
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Unread 08-18-2005, 11:35 AM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

I see absolutely no value in an entirely engineer built robot. Is that really so insulting? I mean, if the students just watch the engineer do brilliant things, they might as well read a book about great innovators. I really do not mean to be insulting, I have immense respect for every F.I.R.S.T. mentor I've ever met, but for the purposes of arguement I'm talking about a hypothetical extreme: an entirely engineer/mentor built robot, something I consider to be indicative of a terrible state of affairs. It could probably never happen in the real world, I said it merely to illustrate the worst case scenario. The closer you get to that worst case scenario, the worse off you are. The flip side of the coin isn't good either: purposely shunning any engineer involvement is contrary to the spirit of F.I.R.S.T. It's about balance, and if you are going to be off-kilter, I think it better to be off kilter on the lack-of-engineer involvement side of things. But why be off-kilter?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy
we would have no swerve drives, no shift on the fly gearboxes, no object-oriented autonomous programming, no WFA winners, no IRI, no Battlecry, no WRRF.
Hey now! I think students could have conceived of, designed and implemented shift on the fly gearboxes, OO-Programming and swerve drives! Most of those things are childs-play (literally) for engineers.
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Last edited by phrontist : 08-18-2005 at 11:39 AM.
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Unread 08-18-2005, 11:39 AM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

Quote:
Originally Posted by phrontist
I see absolutely no value in an entirely engineer built robot. Is that really so insulting? I mean, if the students just watch the engineer do brilliant things, they might as well read a book about great innovators. I really do not mean to be insulting, I have immense respect for every F.I.R.S.T. mentor I've ever met, but for the purposes of arguement I'm talking about a hypothetical extreme: an entirely engineer/mentor built robot, something I consider to be indicative of a terrible state of affairs. It could probably never happen in the real world, I said it merely to illustrate the worst case scenario. The closer you get to that worst case scenario, the worse off you are. The flip side of the coin isn't good either: purposely shunning any engineer involvement is contrary to the spirit of F.I.R.S.T. It's about balance, and if you are going to be off-kilter, I think it better to be off kilter on the lack-of-engineer involvement side of things. But why be off-kilter?
A truly sensible philosophy.
However (as is probably true for many others), I did not distill this message from your previous posts. I am glad you've clarified for all of us, where you stand.
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Unread 08-18-2005, 11:54 AM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

Quote:
Originally Posted by phrontist
I see absolutely no value in an entirely engineer built robot.
Most who disagree with you would say there is little value in an entirely student built robot, either. You might learn a few things, but it seems like a better idea to learn from experienced people who know what they're doing than to try to reinvent the wheel.

To me, shunning help from people who have experience is silly and wasteful. We live in a world where few products come from a single person. It seems to me that to be sucessful in engineering is more to be able to work with and learn from others than to be able to say "I came up with this myself!"

Even though I consider myself a hands-on person, I'm much more inspired by watching/helping an engineer build a robot than I am by an engineer handing me a kit of parts and a machine shop and saying "have at it."
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Unread 08-18-2005, 11:58 AM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg McCoy
Even though I consider myself a hands-on person, I'm much more inspired by watching/helping an engineer build a robot than I am by an engineer handing me a kit of parts and a machine shop and saying "have at it."
Again, neither is a good situation, but I think entirely student run is the lesser of two evils.
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Unread 08-18-2005, 12:24 PM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

Quote:
Originally Posted by phrontist
Hey now! I think students could have conceived of, designed and implemented shift on the fly gearboxes, OO-Programming and swerve drives! Most of those things are childs-play (literally) for engineers.
Eventually, possibly, students would have developed these things in the future. Sure, we see students designing these things now, but that is only possible because of people like Dr. Joe Johnson, Chris Hibner, Mike Soukup, Steve Kyramarios, Raul Olivera, Dan Green, Jim Zontag, Mark Rizzo, Robert Triggs, Mike Betts, Doug Hogg, Greg Mills, Anthony Lapp, Ed Sparks, Mike Ciavaglia, Jeff Burch, Glenn Thoroughman, Dave Flowerday, Tom Nader, Paul Copioli, Tony Norman, Bob Mimlitch, Travis Covington, JVN, Marc Rogers, Mark Jones, James Jones, Rob Bayer, Mark Koors, Alan Anderson, Steve Butler, Bill Beatty, Gary Dillard, PJ Baker, Scott Vierstra, Andy Bradley, Jay Tenbrink, Kenny Ardizzone, Lucien Junken, Dave Lavery, Steve Shade, Stu Bloom, Ian McKenzie, and many others have designed something to show them how.

If you don't know these people, you need to. Heck, there are many more things being developed by mentors in FIRST I don't even know about. Seek them out. Ask them what they developed or helped to develop. Learn from them. This will inspire you to new heights. Then... pass it on. Mimic these developments, improve upon them, share it with others, inspire your peers and the people who look up to you. This is what makes FIRST special.

Andy B.

Last edited by Andy Baker : 08-18-2005 at 12:30 PM.
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Unread 08-18-2005, 12:26 PM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

Quote:
Originally Posted by phrontist
I see absolutely no value in an entirely engineer built robot.
I've been through 7 seasons of FIRST and I have yet to come across any robot that I could confirm was built entirely by engineers. Once again, I think a lot of people see robots which they assume are made entirely by engineers and run with it. And statements like this keep reinforcing it for the newcomers (even if you're only speaking hypothetically).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryan F.
The more we allow for these professionally designed and built robots to dominate the FIRST competitions, the more it encourages student run teams to start letting the engineers design and build the robots. FIRST will start to discourage many teams from participating when they realize that the robot they spent six weeks on has no chance of success at the competition.
Quote:
Originally Posted by phrontist
If we don't have a fair competition, it will quickly degrade into a sham.
Guess what people: this debate is nothing new. People (including me) were saying things just like this in 1995. I remember getting beaten by (what I thought was) an engineer-built bot and thinking it was so unfair. And I remember saying that the competition will not grow if it continues. Well, that was 10 years ago when there were 43 teams at the Championship and 1 regional. Guess what: I was wrong. Way wrong. FIRST has like 1000 teams now with 20-some regionals, and more coming every year.

FIRST seems to have found a formula for success, and that includes all the types of teams out there, not just student-built teams. Some of you are talking about mentors who are interested in the competition and engaged with their teams as if it's a bad thing. Frankly, some of the things being said in this thread are borderline insulting to mentors who volunteer up to thousands of hours each in order to provide this opportunity for you guys. Some of you are acting like we should volunteer all this time but do so solely to operate as babysitters and not "get in the way". I'm sorry, but the fact of the matter is a lot of the great engineers in this program probably wouldn't be here if they were not given the opportunity to work on their robots alongside their students.

To all of you on here who are speaking so harshly about engineers who design parts of their robot: hopefully you don't use any of the kit transmissions, or kit frame, or parts from Andymark, or Skyway wheels, or anything else that isn't a raw material because guess what: those parts were designed by professional engineers. If your team buys a transmission and has students install it, is that really better than another team who has an engineer design their own transmission and their students install it?
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Unread 08-18-2005, 12:30 PM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

I think we all concur that mentors do indeed have a key role in the 'I' of FIRST. If a team does not have the resources for whatever reason, however, the students are not necessarily not being inspired. Rather, I think that such a situation would inspire the students - simply in a different manner than would be expected. When they do research on a drive train or form of appendage or approach a corporation on their own (to name a couple of examples), they are - in my opinion - inspiring themselves to persevere, to be innovative, to recognize their own talents.

Nonetheless, we must find it integral to recognize help where help is offered. When I was a sophomore on my team, we took pride in having a 100% student-built robot (a few negatives for this have been mentioned throughout the thread) - but that is definitely not to say that we did not accept aid from our mentors. Our mentors were the ones to teach us the concepts of physics during the design process. They offered us tips on what appendages might work, all while stressing the importance of simplicity and allowing us to select what we thought would work most efficiently. Our mentors taught us how to use the machine tools. In essence, they empowered us by giving us the knowledge necessary to build a robot and have a successful team. Did they touch the robot? No. But did they inspire us? Most definitely.

I had been given the opportunity to see the contrast between the different types of teams as a student who had been on two teams. I must say that I found inspiration in both types, and while the kinds of inspiration differed, the point is that the 'I' was indeed existent.
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Unread 08-18-2005, 12:44 PM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

I've come to the realization that holding opinions on things publicly is a really, really, bad idea. Really. I'm not being sarcastic for once. Having received negative rep from people I really respect, I now realize that this navel gazing, while fun for a while, is ultimately divisive. Talk is cheap.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Winston Churchill
You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.
Yes, great you stood up for something, what does it get you? Nothing. From the perspective of risk-management, holding opinions, espescially in arena's outside your control, is highly illogical.

Oh heavens, now I hold opinions about holding opinons. I'm meta opinonated! Ack! Wait, was that a judgemental "ack"... am I meta-meta-opinionated?

It's a downward spiral folks.
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Unread 08-18-2005, 01:02 PM
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

Quote:
Originally Posted by phrontist
I've come to the realization that holding opinions on things publicly is a really, really, bad idea. Really. I'm not being sarcastic for once. Having received negative rep from people I really respect, I now realize that this navel gazing, while fun for a while, is ultimately divisive. Talk is cheap.
...
It's a downward spiral folks.
Please understand where everyone is coming from. A high percent of the people who have posted in this thread have never been a student on a team. You see it from your perspective, others see it from theirs. As I see it, students in FIRST fall into 4 categories:

Students on engineer-run teams have mixed emotions; some students love it and see the inspiration of a well engineered machine first-hand. Others see it as though the engineers don't listen to their input, or take control and it isn't really "the student's robot".

Students on student-run reams have the same thing; some of the kids love being involved 100% (or close) on all the decisions. Some hate it and are sometimes overwhelmed by everything and wish desperately for experienced guidance.

Having experienced both perspectives first-hand, I have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t really matter in the end. As many people have said, this isn't designed to be a competition; it is designed to inspire and motivate high school students into a career involving science, math, and technology.

As long as you remain involved because you LOVE what you are doing and the things that have seen, it doesn’t matter who wins and looses the "competition" and, it doesn’t matter who build or designed a robot.

Just remember some of the things that flat-out amazed you about robots. Chances are that an adult helped with it. Instead of criticizing the team, try to beat them! Come up with something amazing for the next year.

I know it can be hard to make people understand what you have experienced, as no person has experienced every facet of every team. Just try to remember that we care only about you, not the robots and not about wining. We want you to get an engineering degree, make lots of money, and love what you are doing. Or at least I do!

-Alex
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Last edited by Alexander McGee : 08-18-2005 at 01:05 PM.
  #59   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 08-18-2005, 01:25 PM
Anne Shade Anne Shade is offline
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet is the fact that even student run teams with no engineering support may very well have received the help of engineers. There are many teams that have used the resources made available here on Chiefdelphi by some of the very engineers that Andy listed in his post above. These resources have helped many teams that don't believe they need engineering help take their robots to the next level. Imagine what you could do if you had some engineers full time?

FIRST isn't about building robots. That's just the tool used to get the message across that with some effort, these high school students can have careers in engineering and that those careers are fun!!! Working alongside these engineers or even interacting with engineers at competitions and on these boards is what achieves these goals. The closer the engineers are the more accessible it makes their job seem and the more students learn about what it really means to be an engineer.

I know how it feels to be on a team where the students get to do very little for their robot and to be on a team run fully by students. There are very few people that have been on both sides of the fence. I've learned that the engineers are a very vital part of keeping this program successful and that before you judge others, you should try to step into their shoes for a little while. Try getting a few engineers to help out and see what happens...

After some more thinking.... Andy, there is one little problem with your list above. Where are the women engineers???
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Last edited by Anne Shade : 08-18-2005 at 02:52 PM.
  #60   Spotlight this post!  
Unread 08-18-2005, 01:28 PM
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phrontist phrontist is offline
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AKA: Bjorn Westergard
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Re: Why do teams voluntarily do FIRST without adult technical mentors?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kims Robot
Now this is getting silly... why on earth are people negatively repping phrontist?
Woah woah woah! Don't jump to conclusions. Yes, they were mentors, but they had valid points. Most disagree with the delivery of the comments, rather then their contents.

I have not stopped arguing because someone said my points were invalid (dost thou thinkest me a coward?!). I stopped for the reasons stated above, nothing more, nothing less. The comments of mentors made me reconsider the whole endeavor.
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